While Euro2012 continues I cannot help but wonder whether UEFA and Michel Platini have any idea of the impending storm brewing regarding their ill-conceived Financial Fair Play regulations and the inevitable legal minefield that lies in wait for them.
British sprinter Dwain Chambers shook up the cosy world of the British Olympic Association (BOA) by repeatedly, and eventually successfully appealing their established policy forbidding Olympic selection for those athletes who had previously tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs. Chambers was banned for 2yrs back in 2003 after testing-positive for the relatively new steroid THG but, after a rather humiliating and brief dabble in NFL(Europe) American Football and an even shorter-lived foray into English club rugby league, he announced his intention to return to track athletics and, with it, sought to lift his lifetime Olympic ban. His appeal before the High Court of Justice – on the principle of being denied his “right to work” – was heard and subsequent dismissed in May 2008, thus excluding him from the upcoming Beijing Olympic Games.
But the story was far from concluded by that snub. In early 2012 The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) challenged the legality of the BOA’s lifetime Olympic ban on the basis that other countries did not enforce such a sanction. This time it was the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) that presided over the apparent inconsistency and they duly judged the BOA lifetime ban as unenforceable, thus clearing the way for Chambers to compete for selection at London 2012. The CAS had already ruled against the International Olympic Committee’s policy of banning an athlete for one Olympic Games in addition to their 2yr drug suspension back in November 2011 so there was inevitability behind the BOA’s fate.
Fellow Olympian Aaron Cook – ranked World Number One in his taekwondo weight-division – is in the process of submitting yet another appeal to overturn his surprise omission from the Great Britain squad for London 2012. On the face of it there appears to be no valid reasoning to explain Cook’s omission other than spite from Great Britain Taekwondo, with Cook having left their world-class performance programme to pursue his own training schedule last summer. Thus far his protestations have fallen on deaf ears at both the BOA and Great Britain Taekwondo so Cook is said to preparing a further appeal to the CAS.
In the World of Football Glasgow Rangers FC have submitted more appeals than Abu Qatada’s 10yr residency at the European Court of Human Rights in their quest to find the golden legal loophole to resolve their current woes. Rangers have been in administration since February having succumbed to the consequences of massive financial mismanagement and are currently staring down the abyss of full liquidation. The Scottish Football Association (SFA) have clear rules regarding such an event and imposed an immediate 12mth transfer embargo on the club in addition to the near-certainty of their relegation down the Scottish divisions. But never fear an appeal is near! Rangers followed up their unsuccessful appeal to the SFA by contesting the legality of the transfer embargo in the Court of Session in Edinburgh, the judge finding in favour of the Glasgow giants on that matter. The judgement considered that the sanction was not within the powers of the SFA despite the fairly obvious appropriateness of such a embargo in light of Rangers’ financial meltdown. But there can be little doubt that an unsuccessful trip to Edinburgh would have seen Rangers queuing at the Swiss-based CAS….
In another twist to these appeals and challenges, the legal eagles working for the administrators at Rangers are trying to establish whether the club is actually a business – and thus protected by basic Company Law – or a club…and the answer seems to be it can transfer between the two statuses as and when it suits. Or at least that is their hope! Having been sentenced to death by HM Revenue & Customs’ refusal to accept a Company Voluntary Arrangement regarding the outstanding £21M owed to HMRC – Rangers Football Club PLC wanted to be a company in this matter – Rangers now want to trade as a brand new company….but they want to smoothly transfer their few playing assets to this new company while jettisoning the odd high-earning flop without having to pay any compensation AND they want to retain the ‘old’ Rangers FC’s position as a Scottish Premier League club?!? One suspects there are a good few appeals and challenges left in the Rangers box of tricks yet….
Which brings me rather belatedly to the focus of this blog and my long-held belief that Michel Platini and UEFA’s noble, if hopelessly unworkable Financial Fair Play regulations will never ever actually see the light of day. With the numerous and lengthy appeals I’ve highlighted in this blog, not to mention the countless other instances of legal action whenever a sporting individual or club feels in any way wronged, it seems implausible at best that Platini’s plan will survive the inevitable tidal wave of appeals.
Certainly the European clubs seem completely untroubled by the possibility of facing sanctions under the Financial Fair Play banner; oil-rich PSG’s pursuit of AC Milan defender Thiago Silva would suggest their lavish spending is set to continue into the new season and beyond. And few would doubt the intentions of fellow sugar-daddy clubs such as Man City, Chelsea, Malaga and mega-rich Anzhi Makhachkala in continuing their own projects alongside the traditional spenders such as Man Utd, Real Madrid, Barcelona, Inter and Juventus.
And would UEFA honestly impose their strictest sanctions on a non-compliant club by expelling them from continental competition? Would UEFA honestly be happy if their prestigious European Champions League competition was contested without the English, Spanish, Italian and French champions, a scenario that could easily become reality if, for example, Man City, Real Madrid, Juventus and PSG were to triumph in their respective domestic leagues?!? And, more importantly, how would the commercial interests, TV rights and sponsors react to a sub-standard product? Especially if those spurned clubs were to contest a rival European Super League, again a thoroughly plausible outcome….
Then we have the wave of appeals, claims, counter-claims….from EVERY club and owner who feels restricted by UEFA’s policy?!? It took 4yrs for Dwain Chambers and David Millar to see their lifetime Olympic bans lifted; and that was principally based on an obvious inconsistency between national associations and a blatant non-compliance with WADA requirements. Quite how UEFA and Platini plan to supersede base European Union Law by effectively restricting the ability to a business to maximise the resources at its disposal in competition remains the most intriguing subplot of this whole charade. And then how long to sift through the multitude of, in theory, much stronger legal challenges in this instance?!?
UEFA’s Financial Fair Play will, in my opinion, never see the light of day….